I’m breaking the rules today, but for good reason. Some of you may be aware that I am doing freelance writing and photography over at the excellent Japan travel resource site, Voyapon. The good folks at Voyapon send me off on adventures to off-the-beaten-path Japan, places you may never think of going on your own. However, due to personal circumstances (adopting a new puppy), I haven’t had the opportunity to travel and write as much as I would like to in the past couple of months. I will take a trip to a super secret location in January, but I can’t talk about that now, nor can I write about it.
So to keep my fingers warm and my writer’s block at bay, I bring you a full on review of Afuri Ramen without a 100-word hard stop! Let’s get to it!
Writing a review of Afuri Ramen at the end of 2018 is akin to writing a movie review saying “Say young feller, that Star Wars movie was way ahead of its time.” You know a ramen shop is already well-known when not only does Uniqlo sell a t-shirt with the shop logo on it, but said t-shirt is already lining the bargain bins. So while I feel like I’m spreading old news, this is still news worth spreading.
Yes, Afuri is common enough that you can pop into a shop in a dozen locations in Japan, 2 in Portland, Oregon and 1 in Lisbon, Portugal. But despite the fact that there is no 90 minute queue to eat at one (at least in Tokyo) and there are literally thousands of viable ramen shops I could eat at, I am inexplicably drawn to Afuri whenever I am in its vicinity.
Like so many fine crafts created by Japanese artisans, Afuri Ramen is a simple ramen done well. It is a chicken based broth flavored with either salt or shoyu bathing Hakata style noodles, a piece of pork or chicken (your choice), menma, mizuna, a single sheet of nori and half a soft-boiled egg. The only other choice you make is if you prefer a standard amount of chicken fat oil in the broth or the richer “maroaji” which gives the broth a heavier feel.
The secret ingredient of Afuri Ramen is no secret at all. Yuzu, the unique-to-Japan citrus that is like a lemon without the sharpness or bitterness, is added to the broth as a counter-balance to the oil. The mingling of the citrus flavor with the savoriness of the chicken broth is so addictive, you’ll keep telling yourself “just one more spoonful” until the bowl is completely empty and you’ll need to drink a 2 liter bottle of water to quench your thirst a few hours later.
Yuzu is magic. But somehow Afuri has found a way to keep it from being the star of the show, just another member of the supporting cast that make a bowl of Afuri Ramen one of the best experiences in the world.
So you know what? I’m going to shout it from the top of the world. I don’t care if it’s old news, but Afuri Ramen is still one of the best bowls of ramen I have ever tasted. Also, I love Star Wars.